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PMO/Project Management Coaching

Why you need a Project Management Coach?

One thing I love doing in my career is coaching and mentoring. I was a hockey coach to kids 10 and under back in my hometown St. Catharines Ontario, Canada. I am currently a tennis coach; I teach kids, adults, and wheelchair athletes. I just love coaching. Oh, and I am also a PMO and Project Manager coach, and I love that as well. You may recall, I wrote an article previously where I tied PMI and football coaching together, if you want to check it out click here, but where I am going with this article is different, so please read on.

Wait.. Wait before we go to far, I have a YouTube video on this I thought I would share. Check it out here.

YouTube player

I feel so lucky that I can take my 30+ years of PMO and Project Management experience and support? Rewrite? It has been an honor seeing people grow in their careers and being part of it. 

When I first start a coaching/mentoring relationship, especially in the PMO and Project Management world, the #1 question I hear is; Why do I need a coach? 

Here are some of the objections I hear:

  1. It’s my company’s career, not mine. If the company wants me to get a coach, then, they are paying for it.
  2. If I need help, I can always go to YouTube. 
  3. There is so much information online, I will just Google it.
  4. I will ask my manager for help; they are not busy!
  5. I don’t have time for a coach, I already know how to manage a _____. <Just insert PMO or Project name here!>. 

Wow, those replies are interesting! Have you heard any of those before? Do you believe in those yourself? What if I asked you that same question? How would you answer me? 

I strongly believe it is these thoughts and opinions that have people stuck in their careers! I am not saying you must have a coach/mentor to advance your career, but it has been proven to help! 

Let’s go outside of the PMO for a bit and talk about professional athletes. Can we agree that professional athletes all have coaches? From football, hockey, tennis, and swimming, almost every professional athlete will have a coach. Or can we agree that they have all had coaches to get them where they are today? Clearly, coaches play huge roles in the lives of athletes! 

CIO

Ok, let’s look at the roles of CIO, VP, President… etc. You name the role, but do you think they have business coaches? Yes, no, maybe? I know for a fact they do. They all have mentors, coaches, and people they turn to for help outside of their companies. Most companies hire external business coaches for their executive teams. Point is, they have coaches, just like athletes do!  Some of these high-level executives have told me directly they have coaches, and when I was at Microsoft for my 14 years, in one of my roles, I too had access to one of these business coaches. It was an amazing experience.

Ok, let’s step down one level in the organization, say to the GM or the Sr. Director/Director level? Every company is different, do those individuals have professional coaches? Not all of them do, but some will. If they don’t, does it mean they don’t need them to help them in their careers? No, it doesn’t? Do you remember the answers we covered above? Sadly, too many GMs and Directors have that same mindset and often fall into the same trap that they expect their company to pay for a business coach. I saw a great graphic online from Russell Brunson who said, “Spend time with your mentors – because you can’t find everything on Google”. It was an Instagram post, and I loved it. I would have added “Spend time with your coaches and mentors….”, but you see where I am going here. 

Ok, so let’s recap on who says yes and who says no on needing a coach. 

  • Professional Athlete – Yes
  • CIO/VP – Yes 
  • GM/Sr. Director – No 
  • PMO Director/Manager – No 
  • Project Manager – No

Humm… that’s interesting. So, the people that are at the top of large companies all either have coaches, or been coached, and completely value this whole coaching/mentoring idea, while the people that report up to those same people don’t feel the same way. Interesting! What does this tell us? 

I like the athlete to office worker discussion. Let’s explore it more. Let’s look at how the two roles compare. I developed the table below to help us compare some characteristics of a PMO or Project Manager role and a professional athlete. Let’s review now:

Role Characteristics

PMO or Project Manager

Professional Athlete

Salary

$150K

$1M

Dedicated to craft

Yes

Yes

Works on a team

Yes

Yes

Leads a team/leadership role

Yes

Yes

Follows a set of processes or playbook

Yes

Yes

Need to be on time for work

Yes

Yes

  

Do I really need to keep going? I don’t think so, but essentially, what you are seeing is there that are a lot of the same characteristics between the two roles. Again, we are not talking about hitting a tennis ball, or managing a particular project, we are looking at this from a high level only.

So, why do I break down the two roles and tell you this? Well, frankly, I want you to think about this and accept that they really are NOT that different. You might think they are you see them on TV; you see them on the big screens; you see all this fame and fortune, but when you break down the two different jobs, you will see they aren’t really that different! I want you to recognize that you need a coach as much as a professional athlete needs theirs!

Does that make sense? 

Can I be frank here? I just don’t understand the mindset some PMO or Project Manager(s) have against getting a coach for their careers! I have a unique perspective because, as noted above, I coach tennis professionally, so I am coming at this topic from two different angles. Both a PMO and Project Management expert, plus from a tennis coach’s perspective. I am also a USPTA Elite Tennis coach, which is the second highest certification you can get in professional tennis coaching here in the US.

Bill Dow Wheelchair Coaching

I have been coaching tennis now for approximately 6-years.  I have instructed complete beginners, all the way to very solid USTA 4.0 players and everywhere in between. At one club I coached it was $100 for a 1-hour tennis lesson. Yep, $100 to hang with me for an hour so I can teach them a forehand, a backhand, a serve…. etc. Week after week, month after month, they would show up and pay $1000 for that tennis lesson which is $5,200 a year. 

Ok, let’s say you are over the sticker shock, and we will keep going. Let’s now turn to PMO and Project Management coaching. Many PMO and Project manager coaches cost $100 per hour. you know where I am going here, do you think, those same office workers who pay $100 per hour for tennis lessons would pay $100 to learn PMO or Project Management skills? Yep, nope, never going to happen! Trust me, I’ve tried, they don’t look at the two things the same way!

But why? Why are they not the same? Why do those same people who think they can be the next Roger Federer not take that same commitment and dollars and use it to enhance their careers? There are so many reasons why people don’t, and that is not for me to answer specifically, but I can tell you what it is not.

  1. It is not about the money.
  2. It is not about the time.
  3. It is not about someone not wanting to grow personally 

I believe it’s about what they value. They feel that they will get more value and have more fun hitting a tennis ball 1-hour a week than having to sit with a PMO coach and paying the same money to learn their craft. They do not really understand the value of having a PMO or Project Management coaching session – until they have their first one. They make their “no” decision based on a lack of information, and then they never get started. It really is a vicious cycle! The only thing they know is it is going to cost, and they will not pay for it themselves! However, if they sat back and put the money aside as they did for the tennis lessons, and said “wait, this could get me……” 

  1. A new job 
  2. Higher pay
  3. Forward movement in my career
  4. Away from my boss

Crazy, isn’t it? 

It is that ‘value’ conversation that drives everyone’s motivation. It is that value conversation that says, “it is the company’s career, not mine”. Or “I am a PM for this company; they want me to get my PMP certification, then they should pay for it!” This thinking puts people at a tremendous disadvantage, and I believe they need to change that mindset starting today or they may never consider getting a PMO or Project Management coach and could stay where they are in their careers for many-many years. 

Back to sports for a second! 

Imagine Tom Brady, renowned football legend, saying, “I don’t need a coach, I already won 7 Super bowls!”. 

Wayne Gretzky

Or how about Wayne Gretzky (The Great One!) saying, “No coach ever helped me in my career!”

That will never happen. In fact, when you do hear professional athletes speak about coaches, it is nothing but praise for their current and past coaches. 

We have proven that PMO and Project Manager job characteristics are much like professional athletes, so where does this leave us? We see that athletes value and need professional coaches, and we know that people will pay $5K a year to hit a tennis ball and have no chance of becoming the next Roger Federer, so, where do we go from here? I want to cover five very important reasons that I believe you need a PMO and Project Manager coach! They include: 

  1. Career advancement – There is no question the more you know, the more you grow! Having a coach to help you move forward in your career is a no-brainer.
  2. Save time and energy on work deliverables – Working with a coach will speed you up. You are going to get templates, best practices, process changes… etc. 
  3. Understand how to do your job more effectively – You are going to talk to your coach, show them what you are doing and get direct feedback. Let me ask, does your manager have the time to coach you personally when they have countless other direct reports?
  4. Having someone to bounce ideas off that wants you to succeed – Remember, your coach wants you to succeed, so that you will keep that coach around longer. Win-win. 
  5. IT IS YOUR CAREER! I cannot stress this enough. It is not your company’s career; it is your career! You may only stay at a company for a short period, so recognize that you own your career and the choices you make with it. Perhaps companies should pay for certification/training, I get that, but don’t let that sway your thinking take charge of your career, don’t leave it in the hands of a company. As I guy who was laid off from one company on three separate occasions, trust me when I tell you I learned the hard way, it is my career and I own it.

That’s all I have for now. I hope you are seeing the importance of hiring a coach, and how you should change your thinking if you don’t believe a coach will help you in your career. 

Let me know what you think! 

Do you need a project management office coach? Do you need a project manager coach? Good questions right? Got you thinking….

If I have convinced you that you need a coach, and you are serious about learning PMO and Project Management and growing in your career please don’t hesitate to get one.  This industry is tough – and changing all the time and you need someone on your side to help you be successful.

If you like this article, you are going to love this one called “Professional Coaches and PMI Certification – Does that make sense?“, so check it out today.

Thanks!
Bill Dow, PMP

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